Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Questions without Notice
Live Animal Exports
Order! The banter going on at the front may be nice in the little group that it is taking place, but Senator Rhiannon is—
Senator Ludwig interjecting—
Senator Ludwig, this is a question to you and Senator Rhiannon is waiting to ask you the question in your role as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Thank you for correcting me, Mr President. Following the footage of animal cruelty at the Temur Petir and Cakung abattoirs in Jakarta was aired on the ABC TV Lateline program on 28 February 2012, showing serious and systematic breaches of the government's new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, what action have you or your department taken to investigate this matter? Further, where is the investigation up to of up to 61 observed incidents of non-compliance with your government's own supply chain assurance regime at these abattoirs?
I thank Senator Rhiannon for her question. I outline that the Australian government supports the export of livestock where acceptable animal welfare conditions are maintained. The only way to secure a future for Australian livestock export is to ensure animals are being treated in line with international standards. On 24 February 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry received a complaint of alleged animal welfare concerns at three Indonesian abattoirs. The complaint included video footage, which was submitted by Animals Australia, and an extract of this footage was aired on the ABC Lateline program on 28 February 2012.
The new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System for live animal welfare breaches is there and does provide for the pathway to DAFF to investigate, as an independent regulator, to ensure that animal welfare issues are taken into account. Where there are allegations of animal welfare breaches, DAFF is there, as the independent regulator, to take appropriate action where it occurs. Officers in the department are conducting an investigation into the footage. This is a thorough investigation and it will take some time to finalise. But, can I say, the independent regulator is separate from the department in the sense that they will investigate the matter. They will then recommend appropriate action to be taken. We should not second-guess what the footage shows. We should not second-guess what information is conveyed. The complaint has been made and the independent regulator will investigate the footage and, where there are breaches, the independent regulator can take action against Australian exporters. It will depend on the investigation proper. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, to help ensure international animal welfare standards are adhered to, which companies are still exporting Australian cattle to these abattoirs? What communication have you or your department had with them about this matter?
Thank you, Senator Rhiannon, for your first supplementary question. The investigation that is underway will include a review and assessment of documents on file, including any independent audits of the three abattoirs, and will seek information from exporters through the supply chain assurance program. In addition to that, the Australian and Indonesian governments are cooperating closely to ensure that the investigation process is followed according to the mutual understanding between the two governments. My department has also provided footage to the Indonesian government, but let's be clear: this footage does provide the basis of the government's decision to impose an exporter supply chain assurance scheme. What it does is ensure that, where there are breaches of animal welfare, individual supply chains by individual exporters can be examined and held accountable for their actions, because the independent supply chain system ensures animal welfare— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, why did you fail to answer the question and disclose the name of the Australian companies that are operating at these abattoirs? Do you plan to suspend the export licences of those companies involved in exporting live cattle to these abattoirs until an investigation is conducted? If not, why not?
I thank Senator Rhiannon for her second supplementary question. I did answer it by indicating that we should not put our question in front of where the investigation is currently up to. The independent regulator will examine the footage, make the investigations and determine whether there have been any breaches of our export control licences by exporters in Australia. That is the appropriate course of action to take. We should not second-guess and determine in advance what the independent regulator will find. It is clear that the footage provides some information, but the investigation will conclude as to which supply chains, which exporters and which abattoirs are part of our quality assurance program and, therefore, which exporters will have to ensure that these issues are addressed. The independent regulator will determine the appropriate remedial action to be taken, not me as minister— (Time expired)